# Water Balloon Catch and More

It isn’t summer until you’ve pulled out the water balloons! Today Travis and Veronika both wanted in on the action, so we included both toddler-friendly and bigger kid ways to play.

For Veronika, it was all about introducing this fantastic summer activity, since she was too little last summer. She was amazed watching me fill the balloons, and squished one around in her hands with delight as soon as the cold water filled it.

Try and teach your toddler to catch with gentle tosses back and forth. A hot morning means it’s no problem if one explodes in the process!

Then try a little target practice. I drew a chalk target on the patio, and encouraged Veronika to toss her water balloons right on top of it.

She wasn’t exactly on target, but she sure loved the splat they made no matter where they fell!

Big brother Travis needed something a little more sophisticated. Cue the water balloon pinata! I had envisioned making this out of five or six water balloons, filled and strung up from a tree.

But he was so impatient for the fun to begin we only had a two-balloon pinata. Take a whack with a baseball bat and watch the explosion!

After that I simply made Travis a big pile of filled balloons to do with as he saw fit.

He squished them, he squeezed them, he bounced them, he imagined they were a water balloon family, he smooshed them between his toes. And more!

# Summer Boredom Bucket List: Day 3

Welcome to the third installment of ways to bust boredom! Hopefully these suggestions are already helping you avoid the dreaded “I’m bored” in your summer of social distancing.

Idea 9: Math-a-Mowing. Want to trick your kids into mowing the lawn? Okay, maybe not really, but I’m not joking when I say that this activity kept Travis happily busy for almost an hour.

The original challenge was to see how long it took to snip the grass in 1 square foot of our yard. Using school scissors, we calculated it took about 1 minute. You can then extrapolate from there. If your yard were 10 feet square, then it would take you 10 minutes. Just imagine how long it would take to do a full football field this way! (Come to think of it, sit your older kids down to solve that problem with math, for another boredom buster…).

Now Travis had discovered the simple thrill of using scissors in the grass, and he couldn’t be stopped. He loved trimming clover flowers and blades of tall grass, and proudly showing me how neat he had made each patch of lawn. Plus he discovered lots of bugs as he worked, popping up from his work to tell me about the latest six-foot critter he’d found. So it turned into a morning of nature exploration!

Idea 10: Squeeze Fresh and Fruity Orange Juice. Start the day off right with this fun activity. First, make oranges nice and squishy by rubbing them under your palms. This will help get the juice out to the max in the next step!

Squeeze out with a citrus juicer, or just squeeze the oranges over a bowl. Pour into a glass and watch your kidsâ€™ eyes pop at the freshest juice theyâ€™ve ever tasted.

Idea 11: Learn to Juggle. Here was another suggestion that was a bit advanced for a 6-year-old. Highlights had broken the lesson down into three steps, and we took it one step at a time. First was just tossing one bean bag back and forth. Travis mastered this quickly. In fact, he mastered it with his eyes closed, standing on one foot, looking over his shoulder, you name it!

I was glad he was so proud because step two was beyond his coordination: Toss up one bean bag, then toss the second up when the first one reaches its apex. At least now we have a goal to keep working toward! Even this mama wasn’t very good at moving to step three – 3 bean bags!

Idea 12: Make Stick Puppets of Family Members. As was the case with our doodles from fingerprints, this game started simple and became loads of silly fun. At first Travis didnâ€™t understand when I said we should make stick puppets of our family on craft sticks. But I showed him that we were imagining the stick itself was the body, and we needed to draw on features.

Now he caught on to the idea, filling in hair, eyes, clothing, and other details. He insisted we make a puppet for the cat, too! (Note: If your kids prefer to be craftier, try making these puppets from fabric or felt, instead!).

We then acted out silly stories about our family. And I do mean silly! This brought out the little kid in me, acting out tales that had us swimming through swamps and giggling at family inside jokes.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a new batch of boredom busters!

# Fire and Flavor

Travis has been exploring how to cook with different elements (air, ice) thanks to his latest Raddish Kids, and today we did a quick test: would the same ingredients taste different, if cooked using 3 different “elements”? We chose corn on the cob for the experiment and tested out the following: air (roasted in the oven), water (boiled on the stove), and fire (cooked on the grill). Unfortunately we weren’t truly using fire for the last, since I only have an indoor grill pan. But we still had interesting results!

Of course first comes the fun of shucking corn. Then for “air”, roast the corn in a 400 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. Boil the “water” version for about 5 minutes in boiling water. Grill the “fire” version over your barbecue or grill pan for about 10 minutes.

Once the three methods of corn had cooked, Travis first wanted to smell them. I had never realized how different these three cooking methods smelled, but it was so apparent when they were lined up on the plate! The oven method had roasted caramel notes, the boiled one smelled sweet and fresh, and the grilled one had a toasty aroma.

Once they cooled, it was time for a taste test. Travis far and away preferred the sweet tenderness of the boiled corn. Air (oven) was his second favorite. “It’s sweet and tart!” he declared.

He decided he didn’t like the grilled one, which may again be the fault of the grill pan versus a real grill. Which method do your kids prefer? Please share in the comments!

# Grasping Objects

Has your kid ever wondered why we have thumbs but most animals they see don’t? Or asked what the thumb is for? Travis sure has! This quick STEM lesson illustrates how useful the thumb can be, and how important it is for us as humans.

To start, I taped Travis’s thumb down against his palm. Our tape wasn’t that strong, so he also had to promise not to cheat, ha.

Now I challenged him to write his name using only the free fingers. Wobbly letters followed, which made him giggle.

Then we placed several small objects down on the table. Smaller and flatter will be more of a challenge for this activity (think keys or coins). It took some pondering on his part, but then he figured out he could pinch items up using the middle and pointer fingers. He was quite proud!

If your child knows how to tie his or her shoes, that would be another fun challenge with the thumb taped down. To finish the lesson, we brainstormed other animals that have opposable thumbs.

Travis’s mind was blown realizing that yes, humans are animals (sometimes we forget what our kids don’t know yet!), and that our closest relatives are apes and gorillas with thumbs, too.

# 3 Ways to Celebrate Watermelon

We learned that the whole month of July is National Watermelon Month (as if we need an excuse to eat it when this fruit is the epitome of summertime), so today we decided to throw a party for this fantastic fruit!

The kids loved getting silly with this. First we needed to decorate, so we made watermelon a banner of… watermelon!

Color the center of paper plates pink with marker or crayons, then add green around the edges for the rind. Don’t forget the black seeds!

If you want, cut the plates into triangles and string up in a garland this way like watermelon wedges. We left ours as circles and I festooned the kitchen door with this ode-to-watermelon.

How better to celebrate watermelon, next, than to eat it! For fun, we cut some slices into “fries” and dipped them into yogurt “ketchup”.

Or, cut a circle cross-section from a whole watermelon and spread with your favorite yogurt. This could be a pizza… Or a cake! Travis decided he wanted his topped with non-dairy cream cheese instead.

# Glow Bottle Bowling

Long summer nights are tailor-made for staying up late, and I love finding activities to heighten the excitement. So on the heels of a few other glow-in-the-dark sports, tonight it was time to go bowling!

During the day, we decorated empty plastic water bottles with colorful tape. You could also use paint markers, but Travis preferred just to use the tape. He loved making diagonal stripes on his!

After dark, we activated glow sticks and dropped one in each bottle.

Line up in bowling formation, then take aim with bean bags! You can use regular bean bags, or glowing ones leftover from a bean bag toss.

Travis loved it so much he insisted on multiple rounds. We played several variations, like lining them up in different ways or sliding the bean bags along the floor instead of throwing them.

I think we’ll need a new set of glow sticks so we can play again tomorrow night!

If your kids are older and want a greater challenge, fill the bottles with water to make them harder targets.

# Air Science

Having recently prepared a recipe reliant on air to cook (a.k.a. a recipe that needs a leavener), today Travis played around with two different kinds of leaveners to see which worked its magic faster.

In one empty water bottle, combine 1 cup warm water, 1 packet active yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Put on the lid and shake, then remove the lid and place an uninflated balloon over the opening. Set a timer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a second empty water bottle with 1/2 cup water and 1 cup white vinegar. Working quickly, add 1/4 cup baking soda. Add a balloon as fast as you can over the top of the bottle; it will immediately inflate with air.

This was fantastic fun for Travis, since the second bottle will be exploding a volcano of vinegar as you attach the balloon.

The results were immediately obvious; baking soda acts much faster than yeast. In fact, our yeast balloon took longer than the 20 minutes we had set on the timer, but after about an hour the balloon was beginning to inflate.

I explained to Travis that this was part of the difference between a slow (yeast) bread and a quick bread (like banana bread), which comes together must faster. Now he understood why!

Stayed tuned for more elemental food science soon!

# Paint Chip Scavenger Hunt

We’ve played with paint chips outside on color hunts outside, but never used them inside before! This activity was a great one to pull out today the second that Travis declared, “I’m bored!”

I told him I had a hunt for him since we’ve been learning about pirates and treasure hunts lately. I have a pile of paint chips from the hardware store, so I punched holes in the corner of each and secured five together with a rubber band. Could he find an exact match for each of the five?

Some were easy, and he proudly held up his sample right away. Ta da!

Some I challenged him when the color didn’t seem close enough. Was that really the right shade of red? He hunted on until he had it right.

When he’d finished the first five, he immediately wanted another 5-pack of colors!

I gave him trickier shades this time.

We really had to ponder when it came to a certain pink.

But wouldn’t you know, when he placed his final chip down on the table at the end, he looked over at his plate and it was a perfect match!

We’ll definitely play more rounds of this game in the future. You can also make it a race to see who finishes their 5-pack first, if two or more kids are playing.

# Create a Compass

This quick hands-on experience lets kids make their own compass with just a few household objects!

Cut a circle from a piece of craft foam, just a bit bigger than a paper clip. Set aside.

Rub a metal paperclip with a magnet about 20 times, being sure to scrape in the same direction each time. Travis proudly counted this out! This step will charge your paper clip with a magnetic charge.

Tape the paper clip to the foam circle, then place in a dish of shallow water. You’ll notice it wobble at first as the water settles, but slowly it will come to point true north. Test it against a real compass for the official results. Getting there…

….North!

Travis was thrilled this worked, all the more so because it stayed oriented north even hours after we left the dish on the windowsill. A simple but great way to show off the pull of magnetism.

# Patriotic Balloons

Even if your family can’t wave balloons at a real parade this year, I loved this idea (spotted in Country Living magazine) to make easy patriotic balloons for fun at home.

I blew up big blue balloons (and red or white ones would obviously also work), then added the letters U, S, and A out of star stickers.

You can use small office star stickers, but we found big sparkly ones that added to the fun.

While I decorated a few balloons in this way, the kids loved adding stickers to a few extras. Stars all over!

We can’t wait to wave these at home while we watch the virtual fireworks.